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A new digital music battle, and online gaming as political liability

ReDigi, an online startup, that wants to help you sell your used MP3s goes to court against entertainment giant EMI.

Ever sold or bought used vinyl records at a yard sale? A startup called ReDigi is trying to help you do the same online, offering to erase your copy and resell the digital music file to someone else. What's yours, you can resell, right? Turns out, it's not that simple. ReDigi is now facing a court battle with big music company EMI. 

EMI is suing ReDigi, claiming people can't resell something they don't really own, according to the fine print they agreed to when downloading. EMI wants $150,000 for every song ReDigi resold. According to Michael McGuire, an industry analyst at the tech research company Gartner, ReDigi has been trying to answer a question that's been brewing since the dawn of digital music.

"Many of us who have these large collections that we've built up on our hard drives and our devices may not be listening to all of them all of the time," says McGuire. "And the notion of now is, 'well, I'm done with this, do I simply delete this work of art?'" 

For ReDigi, the answer is no. EMI and others want to make the argument that an MP3 is not a material good but something that is effectively lent to the owner. McGuire says there could be other implications for the digital book publishing industry as well. Can you imagine, for instance, selling the digital copies of books you've finished at a discount price to say, a public library? Doesn't sound like a bad place for your files once you're done with them, right? Whether it ever comes to that may depend on this case, which is why Apple, Google and other biggees are watching closely. The case could shape the future of copyright law in a digital world.


If you recognize this music, does that mean you are not fit to hold political office? The massive multiplayer game World of Warcraft, a popular online game where people around the world can play together as as they go on quests, is being cast by some as a political liability. The Republican Party in the state of Maine has put up a website and issued flyers to let voters know that a Democrat running for state senate likes to play World of Warcraft.

Colleen Lachowicz is challenging Republican John Martin for a seat in central Maine. The implication is that her pastime is abberant behavior and a sign of laziness. 

"The average gamer is, I think, 35, 38 or something," says Lashowicz. "I've played with doctors, lawyers, architects. It's just a personal hobby. I mean, I'm also a knitter. I suppose they could have gone after that as well." 

The Republicans noted that the average World of Warcraft afficionado spends nearly 23 hours a week playing. I asked Lachowicz if that reflects her level of commitment to the game.

"No. I've been kind of busy knocking on doors and running for office for quite some time," she says. "I think I've logged a half hour, or hour, or so in the past ten months. World of Warcraft has an estimated 10 million users. Which begs the question: Is it a good move to go after a candidate for having a strange avatar on a popular online game? 

"It makes anyone who attacks someone for playing video games -- based on how popular it is in the United States -- seem very out of touch to me, whichever side you're on," says Ben Kuchera, a gaming expert and senior editor for the Penny Arcade Report. He says that the number of average gaming hours cited in Republicans' attacks against Lachowicz is interesting, in part because it's trumped by an hour, on average, of what he considers to be a much worse pastime. 

"If you look at the Unite States as a demographic group, I think we spend about 30 hours a week watching television," says Kuchera. "If we're talking about what I'd much rather people be doing -- playing a game where you're being social, you're doing things you're actively engaged in -- I find that much more stimulating than spending more hours just staring at a television." 

So, what about you? Would your public online activities -- tweeting, Facebooking, gaming -- be targeted by your political opponent in a race? And would that be fair? Let us know in the comments below. 

 

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio
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